December 2014
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
Think Green
Ugly Sweater
Things To Do
Amaryllis Stakes
Top 5 Winter Feeder Birds
Community Gardeners
Toronto Tree Portraits Calendar



Gardening Connections

Home Hardware 
Toronto Star 
Ottawa Citizen  
CTV Canada AM 
Join Our Mailing List

Happy December!


In an effort to make it easy on you, this is my Christmas gift list for the gardeners on your list.  


Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I do hope that you indulge in some unhurried time with family and friends and that you feel peace and goodwill towards all mankind.

These times are too good to waste.

Think Green
Holiday gifts

Gardeners grow stuff.  They read about it, they wallow in the dirt (in a good way), share their success stories and they dream of a better garden, no matter how successful they are currently.  This will provide some clues as to where the nuggets are.  


A trip to your local Home Hardware store or garden centre reveals a plethora of great gift ideas for Green thumbs.  The hand tool section offers quality hand pruners, stainless steel weed diggers and (my favourite) 'scoops' that move a large volume of soil without all of the effort of a small trowel. 


The glove aisle reveals great improvements in glove design, especially for women.  It is true that many female gardeners enjoy a manicure from time to time and as a result they like to protect their hands, fingers and (most important) nails with gloves that feature reinforced finger tips, tough material on the palms and water resistance throughout.  Soil is almost always wet and the scratching is necessary to get the hole 'just right' for planting.  That is where the reinforced finger tips come in. 


Speaking of pruners, look for a good gardening knife and sharpener.  I have made it habit to carry a pocket knife on my belt every time I go out into the garden.  It is amazing how often I use it to open bags, remove lower leaves from lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach plants, open seed packets and even to scrape dirt off of something important like my hand pruners (there they are again!)  Look for my Mark's Choice Gardening Knife at Home Hardware, $12.99.    


Closer to home there are wonderful publications available in hard copy and online.  

Canadian Gardening is the #1 publication of it's kind and chances are a good gardener already has access to it.  Subscriptions are available at


Not as well known and newer on the block is Garden Making, a Canadian publication that won the prestigious 2014 Gold Award for Best Overall Magazine from the Garden Writers Association.  This is big news in the gardening world, indeed.  Garden Making had to compete with similar magazines from across the continent.  Have a look and subscribe at


There is no better bathroom reading than the Harrowsmith's Almanac.  Written by Canadians for Canadians.  It is a classic, filled with information that all of us really need: weather, folklore, country living tips for city people, gardening tips and a couple of articles by yours truly.  It is fun and packed with info.  Even the ads are interesting, if you want to lose weight without dieting, improve your sex life naturally, unclog your eaves or divert your rain water.  For only $5.95 you can't go wrong.  Available at Home Hardware and independent garden centres. 


Speaking of reading, this year there is no shortage of great garden-related books.  Look for:


Bees Make the Best Pets.  'all the buzz about being resilient, collaborative, industrious, generous and sweet - straight from the hive'.  Jack Mingo, Conari Press.  Recently reviewed by me in the Toronto Star.  


Taming Wildflowers: Bringing the Beauty and Splendor of Nature's Blooms into Your Own Backyard.  Hands-on experience for more than 25 years has taught author Miriam Goldberger a thing or two.  All worth sharing in this great, Canadian tome.  Great pictures too.   St. Lynns Press.


For Kids: What Pumpkins Dream.  By Jeff Kendall and Clare Galloway.  This book is about letting go, acceptance of our own place in the world and nourishment.  It is fun and well illustrated.  Self published. ISBN #1499652704 


For reference (Toronto readers): you cannot beat The Toronto Gardener's Journal.  This is a gardeners calendar, reference to organisations of a 'for profit' and 'not for profit' nature, media outlets for gardening, a place for photos and a chart of relative frost dates.  You can't live without it.  Margaret Bennet-Alder produces a good one, once again.  Available online or at Sheridan Nurseries.  Go to


My most recent book is not about gardening.  I have written 21 books and this biography of Hugh Beaty's life is a first.  

Title:  Extra Ordinary.   Hugh is a D-Day veteran, is 96 years old, lives in the same house that he was born in and has lived a full and fascinating life.  $20 and all of the proceeds go directly to SHARE Agricultural Foundation (which he helped to start up 35 years ago).  Go to to order a copy.  It is a quick, entertaining and informative read. 


Merry Christmas and remember, blessed is the giver.  

Ugly Christmas Sweater


Tina Daenzer is my producer at Canada AM.  She called me before I was to appear on the show this past week to debate the merits of REAL vs. ARTIFICIAL Christmas trees with Karl Lohnes.


Tina had this wonderful idea that I should wear an ugly Christmas sweater for the debate.  My assistant Brenda picked up on the idea and voila, a truly ugly sweater (pictured here).  


Now it is up for auction.  What lucky bidder will win this thing of beauty?  (Note: this sweater is a men's size large) Here are the auction details:


1. The auction will take place on my Facebook page

2. The auction will end Tuesday, December 2 at 5pm.

3. Please post your bid directly under the photo of the sweater, under comments.
4. Payment will be made directly to SHARE Agriculture Foundation. 
5. We will contact the winning bidder to make arrangements for shipping.

All proceeds from this auction will directly benefit SHARE Agriculture Foundation.  Have fun & thank you for your support.


Bid now!

And watch our exciting Tree Debate at 

Things To Do 'In' Your Garden:

Read.  Well, not 'in' your garden, but about your garden.  Your memories of the gardening season just past are fresh: make notes, organise pictures that you downloaded onto your computer and be sure to check out my weekly gardening/environment column in one of my 22 syndicated newspapers or online at


- Order seed catalogues. I received my 2015 Veseys catalogue this week.

- Save your real Christmas tree to stand in your garden for the winter.  Hang suet on it and let the birds forage.

- Apply Wilt-pruf (Home Hardware item#5097-818) to broadleaved evergreens like boxwood, holly and the like to prevent winter desiccation (apply when temperatures are above freezing).

- Drop by your local Home Hardware for many great gift ideas for the gardener, birder, hiker and of course the handy 'man' on your Christmas list.

- Order a copy of Extra Ordinary, the Hugh Beaty story, for readers and WW II buffs on your list.  My latest book is available on line at   $20 plus shipping. 

- Read my most recent newspaper story for an undated list for 'winterizing your garden'.  Admittedly, this is only useful if you are NOT already socked in for the winter, like my friends in Winnipeg seemingly are. 


Relax, enjoy and indulge.  Our long Canadian winter provides lots of time to be alone and to work off the excess of the holiday season.


With many thanks from me personally and from Brenda, Denis, Siglinde, Rudy and Marette: the Mark Cullen Team.  Enjoy the best that Christmas day and the holiday season have to offer.  In the best of health. 


Yours, as always. 



Merchant of Beauty 

Product of the Month
Mark's Choice Amaryllis Stake 

I use an amaryllis stake for every amaryllis I grow.  Install the stake early, before the leaves are too large.   If you are growing a premium-sized amaryllis bulb (like the Mark's Choice kits) the flower stalks will have multiple blooms.  The stalks will need support to make sure they don't fold under the weight of blooms. 


NOTE: I recently learned that the planting instructions are missing my amaryllis kits.  Each Mark's Choice amaryllis kit includes a coco peat tablet and an enormous amaryllis bulb (the largest that we could find!).

Fill the decorative pot 1/3 with luke warm water and the peat tablet.  The tablet will absorb the water and expand.  Once the tablet has fully expanded, break it apart with your fingers.  You now have fertile compost in which to plant the amaryllis bulb.

Fill the pot halfway with the compost and place the bulb on top.  Add the rest of the compost around the bulb leaving the top half exposed above the soil surface.  After planting, tamp down the compost firmly.

Top 5 Winter Feeder Birds

If you're feeding the birds this winter or are planning to do so, here are the top 5 birds you can expect to see at your feeder.   

Plan accordingly with the proper feeders and seed.


Black-capped Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch

Blue Jay

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers

Dark-eyed Junco


Remember to keep those hungry birds safe: keep cats indoors during peak feeding times (dawn and dusk) and place feeders within three feet of a window or further than 30 feet.  That space in between is dangerous as the birds can build up enough speed to kill them should they hit a window. 

Calling All Community Gardeners! 

Most of you won't know me but you may have seen my Facebook responses to your questions.  My name is Marette and I've worked with Mark for the past three years.  I'm excited to be part of a new book, written by Mark and me.


And this is where you community gardeners come in: we need you to tell us your stories.  Tell us why you started a community garden, why you participate in one, what you've accomplished in your community, and what changes you've seen in yourself and other community members.  

If you're part of a community gardening group, feel free to write it together.  Tell us about your experiences, what you've learned, and how your garden(s) has/have contributed to the community.


Please use this questionnaire to guide you.  Mark and I will choose our favourites and feature them in our new book.


For more information or to send in your story, please email me at


Looking forward to your responses!

2015 Toronto Tree Portraits Calendar 

This year's calendar is a retrospective edition, with a foreword by Dr. Roberta Bondar, introduction by Vince Pietropaolo - the curator again this year, guest column by Lorraine Johnson and epilogue by Arthur Beauregard.  

We think it's a beauty, and hope you do too!   As well as highlighting an image and literary page from each of the past ten years, there are two new photographs that commemorate the ice storm of 2013.


All proceeds from calendar sale go toward supporting the great charitable work of the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation.


Click here to order calendars. 

Stay in Touch 

Stay in touch with my gardening tips by visiting my:


Weekly blog post - From the Garden Shed - every Wednesday


Weekly audio tip - The Green File - every Wednesday


Daily Facebook page updates 


Daily Tweets 


And Weekly Canada AM segments, on Wednesdays 

Submit Your Event Listings 


Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote, I would be happy to include your event listing in my monthly e-newsletter.


Send your info to with the subject line 'Newsletter Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.


The Outback Tree Farm
Listowel, Ontario

Start your family's Christmas tradition with a choose and cut Christmas tree from the Diebel Family. The Outback Tree Farm offers a variety of trees including balsam fir, spruce and pine that have been planted on our family farm.


We are a family based business who takes pride in their Christmas trees. Situated on Highway 86 just five miles east of Listowel. We also have a large selection of pre-cut trees including premium Balsam and Fraser Fir, Spruce and Pine. 

U-Cut trees available Saturday and Sunday only starting Saturday November 29,2014 closing Sunday December 21,2014. No dogs allowed please.

More info. 

Royal Botanical Gardens - Holiday Traditions


Dates: November 15 to January 4

Location: Royal Botanical Gardens.  680 Plains Road West, Burlington, ON


Celebrate the season with Holiday Traditions, our annual holiday celebration featuring the famous RBG Train Show!  Experience the winter wonderland of magical Hendrie Park.  Make your way along the trail of festive lights, past the Candy Cane Garden and into Santa's Cabin for a visit.  Warm up in RBG Centre with weekends filled with children's entertainment, choirs, crafts and story time for Santa's little helpers.

More info.

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Nova Scotia
Historic Gardens

Winter Farmers' Market


Join us at the Historic Gardens for the 2014-15 Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market season. Coffee, baked goods, fish, meat, produce, preserves, and the list goes on!

The Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market runs EVERY Saturday October 18 until mid May.

Meet you at the Market! Buy fresh... Buy local.

Time: 9am - noon

Location: Historic Gardens. 441 St. George Street

More info.

Kingsbrae Garden

New Brunswick


Garden of Lights & 11th Annual Festival of Trees 

Every Wednesday to Sunday, November 26 to December 28

Time: 5-9pm


Take in the display of beautifully decorated trees for the 11th Annual Festival of Trees sponsored by many local businesses.  There will be a Silent Auction of the trees to benefit the Charlotte County Volunteer Centre and Food Bank.

Location: Kingsbrae Garden. 220 King Street, Saint Andrews, New Brunswick


More info.

Light Up The Hills Festival of Lights

Dates: December 1-January 3

The Dominion Garden Park in Georgetown (Halton Hills) is a wonderland of 50,000 LED lights and displays.

The park is located at the corner of Maple Avenue and Guelph Street in Georgetown.

Enjoy a magical walk through the Dominion Garden Park formerly the site of Dominion Steel.

More info.

The Butchart Gardens

British Columbia  


Come to The Magic of Christmas Light-Up at the Rose Carousel.  Afterwards, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the magnificent light displays!

Date: December 1

Time: 5pm-10pm

More info.

Niagara Falls Horticultural Society  



Dan Cooper

Christmas meeting


Date: December 11

Location: Niagara Falls Library. 4848 Victoria Avenue, Niagara Falls

Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'

Topic: Low-maintenance gardening. 


 'Gardening from a Hammock' talks about the gardens of 17 well-known gardening experts, including Paul Zammit, Dugald Cameron, Marion Jarvie, Marjorie Mason, Lorraine Flannigan, Belinda Gallagher, Frank Kershaw, Martin Galloway and Jim Lounsberry, among others.  This presentation focuses on the easy-care plant suggestions and plant combinations for low-maintenance gardening base on advice from these experts.

More info.

Muttart Conservatory - North Pole Christmas  



Date: December 14

Time: noon to 4pm

Christmas is just around the corner and the Muttart Conservatory is throwing an event to get you into the Christmas spirit!  Activities including a seasonal craft, face painting, and Christmas cactus planting are available for all to enjoy!  Live music will fill Centre Court with the warmth of the season.  Don't forget to pick up a Muttart Conservatory grown poinsettia!

More info.

Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society   


Plant Sale

Date: December 14

Time: 1-4pm

Location: Toronto Botanical Garden. 777 Lawrence Avenue East, Toronto

Presentation: The History and Art of Dry Stone Walling

Speaker: Wolfegang Bonham

Free admission, free parking

More info.

Applewood Garden Club   



Annual Special Evening - JOIN ME!


Join me at Applewood Garden Club's annual fund-raising evening.

Date: January 20, 2015

Time: 7pm

Location: Lakeview Golf Course. 1190 Dixie Road, Mississauga

In The Future of Gardening, I will discuss what today's new garden looks and feels like, and will offer lots of tips on how to design, grow and maintain yours.

Tickets: $15

Proceeds of this event are in support of Our Place Peel, a Mississauga residence for homeless and disadvantaged youth.

For ticket information go to

Organic Master Gardeners Program   

 Stony Plain, Alberta

The Organic Master Gardener program is Alberta's first and most extensive organic master gardener program.  Students study about twice a month from February to October each year.  The first class for 2015 will be on February 4, from 6-9pm.

Half the courses are the Gaia College curriculum and the other half are locally developed  courses, created for north central Alberta soils and growing region.

For a detailed syllabus, go to, or go to the Organic Master Gardener tab and click on 2015 registration.